Go to:
The Palm Beach Post
historic palm beach logo

November 1969: Palm Beach County’s own Woodstock

Adrienne Moore of Stuart asked about the “First Annual Palm Beach International Music and Arts Festival,” held Nov. 28-30, 1969, northwest of West Palm Beach.

The event was both the first and the last.

It drew 40,000 people to the 149-acre Palm Beach International Speedway, later the Moroso Motorsports complex and now back to its original name.

Officials fretted about health, sanitation and traffic, and were mortified by images of drugs and sex they’d seen 3½ months earlier at Woodstock.

They denied a permit to promoter David Rupp, who’d bought the track at foreclosure. He prevailed, but gained a new obstacle: Sheriff William Heidtman.

The sheriff set up surveillance cameras and positioned 150 deputies around the clock at nearby Pratt & Whitney.

Crowds tried to avoid the $20 entry, some swimming canals. Iron Butterfly came on first, 2 ½ hours after the gates opened.

Chilling rain fell and temperatures dropped into the 40s. Vendors ran short of food, and many of the 300 portable toilets were dismantled for firewood.

Helicopters flew acts — Jefferson Airplane, Sly Stone, Janis Joplin — from Singer Island.

Joplin, who’d die of an overdose in 10 months, trashed Heidtman and Gov. Claude Kirk on stage and sang while chugging Southern Comfort.

The Rolling Stones, paid $100,000, went on at 4 a.m. Monday and played a short stint for the few remaining.

The tally: 130 drug overdoses, 14 eye injuries, 42 intestinal disorders, 1,700 headaches and minor cuts, 1,000 reported conversions to Christianity, 130 drug arrests, and one death, of a teen struck by a truck. Rupp lost $300,000 to $500,000, “all the cash I had and all that I’d borrowed.”

In 1999, Heidtman — who would die at 91 in 2007 — dismissed as myths reports he planted alligators in canals and red ants in the fields, saying Florida always supplies plenty. But he did unapologetically say, “If I had it to do over again, I’d try to stop it.”

Poster Reprint 18x24

musicfest
The ‘first annual’ Palm Beach International Music and Arts Festival was the first and the last event of its kind. Held in 1969, the festival featured Jefferson Airplane, Sly Stone, Janis Joplin and the Rolling Stones. (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)


The front page of the Nov. 29, 1969 Palm Beach Post-Times.


The front page of the Nov. 30, 1969 Palm Beach Post-Times.


The front page of the Dec. 1, 1969 Palm Beach Post.

Tags: , ,

Posted in Eliot Kleinberg November 26, 2009 at 9:15 am.

33 comments

33 Replies

  1. Rick L Dec 8th 2009

    Thanks for posting this FLASHBACK.

    With the Woodstock aniversary this year, we’d been trying to “count back” to remember just when this took place. I graduated from Army Engineer OCS in Sept ’69, bought my first new car – a ’69 VW Camper Van – reported to my 1st duty station – The Clewiston Area Office, USACEC and was immediately sent TDY to Bay St. Louis / Waveland, MS for Hurricane Camille clean-up duty. I returned from that in mid November ’69, saw the ads for this Palm Beach Rock Festival along with it’s headliners and just HAD TO GO.

    It was a VERY interesting weekend – for sure! Who knows, one of those VW Campers in the photo – just might have been mine.

  2. Being a WPB native, and having just finished chasing “The Turtles” and everyone else all over the country the previous summer, there was no way I was going to miss the “PB Pop Festival”, as it was known at the time. This was the only time I saw the Rolling Stones. They put on such a miserable performance that I never went to another of their concerts. Everyone else was great! I’ll remember Janis Joplin singing for all she was worth for the rest of my life.

  3. Jimi T. Jan 27th 2010

    I was there and it was a great time sans the weather. Cold, Wet, Miserable.. But excitement was all around. The first Rock Festival in these parts I do believe.
    Janis rocked the house, two fisting her Southern Comfort from the piano, then coming to the edge of the stage and spitting it on me, ( My cherry trip so I didn’t care). Her jamming with Johnny Winter, Vanilla Fudge, and some of the Iron Butterfly was fantastic.
    Alot of big name bands so who could forget.
    The National Guard helicopters overhead and buzzing us all weekend. The police always sneaking around trying to intimidate.
    WHAT FUN!!!!!!
    I was drafted 2 months later so this was kinda my last hoorah for a while. All in All it was a great 3 days of music…

  4. Jimi T. Jan 27th 2010

    I also meant to reminisce about Wavy Gravy in his ww2 pilot helmet or whatever it was, guiding a car backwards trying to help them and backed them into the pond. I like to think he knew it was the police in unmarked car and put them in on purpose since you know he diden’t do drugs..

  5. Eileen Jan 28th 2010

    Thanks, for all the info. I remember it as a great weekend, where everyone came together in a peace loving atmosphere. My husband and I were there as vendors in an old school bus with different colored felt curtains in every window. We sold strob light candles and parapheranlia, incence, the whole Indian thing. I remember Janis and Sly and family Stone making the whole earth beat and leaving our booth to hear the music, my heart pulsing. I didn’t do drugs but all my friends did, but unlike drinking they were always mellow. Unfortuately, they didn’t all stop at marijuana. It rained terribly but everyone just kind of mellowed out..

  6. I went by myself and joined up with some classmates, I was 17 a senior in high school in West Palm Beach. I remember being in what would seem another world to any one that was from the Palm Beaches. Eventually the weather made it very hard on you, but it was a total experience that is life changing to some. Janis Joplin and Johnny Winter were jamming for quite some time, with the help of Johnny’s little brother Edgar who I remember just ripping the saxophone up, and of course backed up by Vanilla Fudge. Boy what a moment in time. All the other bands were great also I remember Grand Funk, Spirit and Iron Butterfly. You could hear the music anywhere you went on the huge piece of PBIR property. So no matter where you were you heard the bands. I went home and got some food it was really impossible to eat out there they were not really prepared for more than 20,000 but there were more than 40,000. To leave the festival was not really hard to do beacause that lane was open on the B-Line Highway. But on Sunday morning the west bound lane was blocked all the way to Military Trail (Many Miles) So I took my Dad’s Willy’s 4-Wheel Drive Station Wagon back. I road on the side of the road and through the woods and made it back out there. This is where growing up a Florida Cracker comes in handy. By the time the Rolling Stones were able to show up I was so cold I could not concentrate. It was very hard to care about music at that point it was low 30′s and 4:00 am in the edge of the Everglades after alot of rain the previous day so it was cold and muddy. I am involved with the making of a documentary about the 1969 Palm Beach Pop Festival (First Annual Palm Beach Music and Arts Festival) you can find alot more info and many photos of the Festival at our new Palm Beach Pop site http://www.oldrockphoto.com/palmbeach.html or we still have the original http://www.palmbeachpopfestival

  7. I am very happy to see someone else talk about this event. I was the official photographer and have some great memories, Janis And Johnny Jaming, Spirit had a fantastic set as did Grand Funk Railroad. I was backstage when the Stones arrived, it was frantic, the weather was freezing cold, I was standing around an 80 gallon drum with a fire in it, just to keep warm.The Stones arrived directly from their Madison Sq. Garden concert and performed the complete ” Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out ” set.I would like to hear from those who went, as I am working on a documentary on The Palm Beach Pop Festival at this time You can see my photos at http://www.palmbeachpopfestival.com ,or http://www.oldrockphoto.com I hope you like them, Peace, Ken.

  8. i designed the poster for the 1969 Rock festival. i had the Sheriff investigate me because I illustrated grass on the bottom half of the Poster.. The promoter Dave Rupp asked me to get over to the Hotel where Janic Joplin was staying since she had tossed the TV out the window and was raising hell. The Sheriff would not do anything because he wanted it all to happen so he could prove he had been right about the hippies. I reprinted the poster 35 tears later and had a woman buy a framed print as a birthday gift for her husband being that he had been concieved at the Rock Festival. the poster is now a collector’s item and get calls from all over the country from collectors looking for an original print. I sold my last original print 10 years ago for more than ten times the price I was paid to design it!

  9. **Flashback** Wow that was a great time, I had just worked with the Blues Magoos at thier show at the drag strip previous to this. I remember it, well most of it. Wet muddy all kinds of stuff to mess ya up, found out too late not to accept drinks you did not open, but that was fun too. I went to sleep in my Caddy and was awoke with live rock n roll, King Crimson was one of my favorites and when Janis called the sheriff Eichmann the crowd roared.

    Hey Royce I still have my 1969 Rock Festival Poster and got Janis to sign it.

    I got hired by Johnny Winters road crew and hauled them amps from there to Orlando, Jacksonville all the way to New Orleans that summer.

    What a long strange trip its been.

    PEACE

  10. Michael Nov 29th 2010

    We attended most of the festival, it was a wet ,muddy mess- but a once in a lifetime experience. But the weather didn’t dampen our time-great groups and one great crowd…
    As a local who had camp stoves (hot food) and dry towels and blankets, we managed to better than most. I recall burning the bleacher wood..

  11. There was talk of raising the bridges so the dirty hippies couldn’t get over to Palm Beach.I had driven from Manhattan to Woodstock with 3 PB buddies,but we got stuck on the NY Thruway,wandered around the incredible scene all night before finding the bowl of red mud people round the stage at about noon on Friday,then decided to go back to NYC. Never heard a note.Why do you think they call it dope?
    I stuck if out for this one. Carried Johnny Winter’s handcarved wooden guitar case from the ‘copter;slept some by fireside until the Stones deigned to come over from Singer Island at 4 AM. I heard they took their sweet time .having dinner and R and R in the motel,while we fans hunkered down in the cold .I was FUBAR by showtime ,but remember they took their shirts off on stage.Janis was great! I think the Chambers Brothers were there and great as well. Unfortunately the joke about if you can remember the sixties,you weren’t there, is true for me.
    PS; does anyone remember the story about that awful sheriff filming a man who had swallowed a bag of speed,instead of getting him to the E.R.?

  12. TIDE ferrari racing tom davis Palm Beach Dec 1st 2010

    Super lawyer Melvin Weiss & classic car collector Dave Rupp staged a terrific event but didn’t pay off the weather gods or the red neck sheriff.[Palm Beach County still has one] We flew in Dr. Roger Shermans toy copter with Dr Craig Bass whom were on call as MD’S at the concert. I rember Dr Roger smoking a Cocoanut Grove camel, then swimming in one of the many mud puddles. I chose not to fly bach to Miami & called my girl friend Wilma Fingerdo whom came & resuued me a few days later. Please, help SAVE the MIAMI MARINE STADIUM & Rivera Beach, Park, Marina & Lake Worth Lagoon !

  13. Boca Joe Feb 23rd 2011

    My wife Millie and friend Kenny from Deerfield went and met his sister Heather there… My first Concert was wet, cold, muddy and loud. We hung out in a tent for most of Saturday and into the night drinking wine and smoking funny things. It got nasty out and my wife who was pregnant wanted to leave, so we went into Riviera Beach and rented a motel room. Got to see most of the Top acts, Janis blew everyone away, and Johnny Winter was great too… I’ll never forget the experience and have been Rockin’ & Rollin’ ever since.

  14. My buddy Tim and me had just started Peanut Butter and Jelly College and we went and slept under the timing towers where all the bikes parked. It started raining when Iron Butterfly was doing Innagoddadavida and everyone was all, “it’s just like Woodstock”. One night we crashed for a while, woke up and heard a band playing and someone singing and couldn’t figure out who it was. We went to the stage and it was Joplin jamming with the Vanilla Fudge. It’s all kind of fuzzy but I thought Pacific Gas and Electric rocked the house more than most, too bad there isn’t a movie of it all. I stood within ten feet of Joplin at one point, she was offstage carrying her bottle with her.
    The sheriff was such a Nazi. There was a story that he filmed a guy who was overdosing, cuffed to a chair until he died. Someone burnt down Rupps used car lot in Lake Worth during the festival.
    Was not very many years until Kent State and I moved to the woods.

    Long live rock and roll.

    JD

  15. Les Phagan Nov 8th 2011

    I remember it starting with In A Goda Da Vida. Then is started raining and I was freezing. A little later King Crimson played. They were my favorite. People were kind and sharing everything they had. I thought the crowed was at least a hundred thousand.

  16. Camp Campbell Jan 1st 2012

    I, if anybody, should remember this festival since I was chief Security Officer for the event. Still possess my security badge and have fond memories of time spent with Johnny and Edgar Winters, Janis Joplin, The Byrds, Chambers Bros,Spooky Tooth, and all the others.

  17. I waited a very long time for this to come to the Internet. My most memorable times was that weekend concert. It was wonderful to see so many great bands and anything that happened to any of the people who attended, like anything else, we had to answer to ourselves, (ha, I had to be home by 11 pm each night, though).But met some great kids from New Orleans and I gathered gallons of milk, oreo cookies, made ham sandwiches and chips and went out and we ate in their van and behaved our-selves, maybe we made out a little, but nothing to write home about, ha ! I still have the 8-1/2 x 11 yellow PROGRAM and I cherish it……I have run into some people over the past few years that asked for a xeroxed copy and I gave them one, but I really do cherish my original program and photos of the people and the stage. My email is peggywatford@live.com if anyone would like to chat about being there. Really will never forgt it !
    Peggy Watford
    Live on 60′s FOREVER !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  18. alun vontillius Jan 24th 2012

    I was a 17 year old stage hand for Hanley Sound and would love to find a picture of me sharing southern Comfort with Janis, Johnny and Edgar Winter.
    Thanks for the article.
    AV

  19. Dan Markham Mar 13th 2012

    I was there too. I was 17 and drove my V.W. bus down from G’ville.Didn’t have the cash to get in ,so I swam the canal.Remember Gov. Claude Kirk marching in with his troops to shut the event down,only to be peacefully overwhelmed by all the beautiful people and led back out the gates. I think Iron Butterfly opened up in the rain with “In the time of our lives”. Also remember the Janis,Johnny,and the Vanilla Fudge jam.What a classic time in my life

  20. Bill Mankin Aug 11th 2012

    One of many similar counter-cultural spores blowing around and seeding the country. One of the best musical lineups of any festival I attended.

    http://likethedew.com/2012/03/04/we-can-all-join-in-how-rock-festivals-helped-change-america/

  21. betty m Aug 14th 2012

    I was there and it was one of the most unique experiences of my life.
    We pitched a tent and stayed for 3 days. I couldn’t begin to imagine at the time how special it was .
    being able to see Janice Joplin perform was great, not to mention all the other great artists.

    That weekend will live in my mind forever!

  22. I was just watching a youtube clip of Jefferson Airplane at Woodstock and wondered if there was any info about the PB festival. What a fantastic surprise to find all this info. I was 19 and remember it like it was yesterday. One of those experiences you never forget. The cold and wet really didn’t matter with the talent on stage. I remember bundling up in a blanket, sitting under the stars with friends, being surrounded by a purple haze, and listening to Janis, the Chambers Brothers and the Byrds. Thanks for posting and sparking some great memories.

  23. Eddie Oct 7th 2012

    The Hut now has a Facebook page.

  24. Larry Meier Dec 4th 2012

    What a beautiful weekend! I smelled of woodsmoke for weeks! Anyone remember the guy in the long white robe kneeling in the mud and praying?

  25. Sherry Maira Dec 11th 2012

    I was 18 and went with a friend. He wanted to get there early, so we arrived in time to watch the stage being completed. We were greeted by several people giving out drugs of the day. We got a great seat up close to the stage. It was my first rock festival and I was constantly amazed by the huge crowd of peace loving people. If you were hungry or thirsty, all you had to do was ask and someone would share what they had. And of course, the music was the best. I slept in my car and was too tired and dirty by Sunday afternoon to wait for the Stones so gave up my ticket to another friend. I saw people who were rolled up in blankets laying in the mud and being driven over but they seemed ok. The sheriff would not approve enough trash cans, then complained about the trash that was left. It was an unbelievable experience I will always remember.

  26. Blanez Dec 18th 2012

    I was a UF student and my friend was a reporter for the college newspaper “the Alligator”. He had press credentials and we got to sit/stand in the right stands next to the stage for the first 2 days. The music was unreal!!! Iron butterfly, janis joplin johnny winter, james cotton, deep purple and more (i think, i was on acid and/ or highly stoned the entire concert) The 3rd day was impossible to get to the previous viewpoint because of the cops, cold and crap. The stones came on after Jefferson airplane at about 4 AM and played for about a hour. It was freezing cold and the the crowd had shrunk to about a 1/3 of the original attendees. The RS were sort of anticlimactic after all of the waiting and the other groups being better (earlier in the festival) then the sun came up and it looked like a war zone. The stands had been pulled down and burned. Blankets jackets, shoes, clothes, rubbish, liquor bottles, etc….spread everywhere. My friend and I were separated from our ride back to G-ville and asked some folks that had a old school bus that were heading north for a ride. Joints were shared as well as a ride thru Florida (which was seriously redneck back then). We made it back and now I am in my 60′s and look back on what I did in “THE sixties” and I am grateful I did it then ( and survived). mahalo nui ( i moved to Hawaii in 1972) and am fortunate to be here. I went to a couple of crater festivals here, but that west palm beach one was the best of all time for me.

  27. I was a co-op student at Pratt & Whitney working on jet engines and the event was just across the highway from where I worked. Although in Florida, I remember it was cold as hell and muddy. Many of us shared blankets, ponchos, whatever.

    Recall Ed Cassiday (sp?), drummer for Spirit, cutting his hand during act and continuing to play without interruption while spattering blood.

    Other memories – Iron Butterfly’s “high tech light show” which was basically a clear pan full of water on a big Vu-graph projector in which they would drop blobs of colored oil. Johnny Winter & Janis Joplin jamming together. Leaving Rolling Stones closing act around 2 or 4 a.m. Monday because I had to be at work that morning.

    Details may be blurred by excessive substances and passage of 43 years, but it was an amazing experience that I’m glad I took advantage of.

  28. Cooky & Lori Mar 27th 2013

    Lori and I drove down to Palm Beach from Tampa with her brother and girlfriend. We were unable to get Tickets The cops stopped us from driving in without Tickets. WE were determined to get in. Built a raft from pallets we found and pedal our way in. Our boat sank David and I got covered in mud. it was so cold there was frost on the ground and we were frozen to the bone. We drove into Miami rent a motel room . Spent the weekend in Miami shopping. A Year later Lori and I were separated by our Parents. (we were teenagers) In 2009 we found each other and married November 2010. Thanks for the memoirs.

  29. Being in the 6th grade, the only way I was able to get in was with my parents (a physician and nurse) who worked in the overdose tent. First time i ever smelled weed. Janis Joplin totally rocked as did Airplane and King Crimson. Great event. Dman it was cold!

  30. I got there a week early with some friends who had a old furneral Hurst we rode in. We got jobs building and working the security at the stage. I was on stage many times or at the stage entrance gate. I drank Southern Comfort with Janis..Many more stories about WPB festival but too many to list. On a side note it was there that I had my first and last encounter with Red Ant’s.


Leave a Reply

We'd like your thoughts on this story. I appreciate your willingness to share them. At PalmBeachPost.com, we want to avoid comments that are obscene, hateful, racist or otherwise inappropriate. If you post offensive comments, we will delete them as soon as we can. If you see such comments, please report them to us by clicking this link.

Tim Burke, Executive Editor, The Palm Beach Post.


© Copyright 2014 The Palm Beach Post. All rights reserved. By using PalmBeachPost.com, you accept the terms of our visitor agreement. Please read it.
Contact PalmBeachPost.com | Privacy Policy